NEW ULM, Minn. (WCCO) - The southern part of the state is described as the epicenter of the flu outbreak this year.
Later this week, hospitals and clinics will announce visitor restrictions to help stop the spread, and some have already taking action in hit hard areas like Mankato and New Ulm.
Dr. Joan Krikava, medical director at New Ulm Medical Center, says the numbers are staggering. They're seeing more people with the flu now than they did at the height of the H1N1 outbreak in 2009.
"We are seeing 50 to 100 extra patients in our clinics and hospitals. That's about double the number of patients we see in a day. And in our hospital half of our patients have influenza," Krikava said.
To prevent the spread of the flu, hospitals in this part of the state have implemented visitor restrictions. New Ulm has restrictions in place, and Sleepy Eye, which is 15 miles west, has closed the doors to its medical center to visitors.
"In our hospital we're limiting visitors to immediate family, only we're limiting the total number of visitors. And of course if you are ill they should not be visiting the hospital," she said.
Hospitals in the Twin Cities have not put restrictions on visitors yet, but with this flu season in full swing early, it's hard to tell when or if they will be forced to follow the lead of hospitals in south central Minnesota.
"They're expecting that this outbreak will last another 8 to 10 weeks, potentially because the peak of flu season is in February and we're not there yet," said Krikava.
Doctors say it's not too late to get you flu shot this season.
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